Friday, November 30, 2012

Church Music Principles

Here's a list of 50 principles for those who are responsible for music in evangelical churches. Comments are welcome. (I don't pretend that each of them is heaven-sent. Some are merely based on my observations.)
  1. Worship music is for worship, not entertainment.
  2. The best corporate worship music is theologically very simple or very deep, or both.
  3. Songs for corporate worship should be singable and memorable.
  4. If the congregation is supposed to be singing, but many of them aren't, something is wrong.
  5. Believers need to be taught from scripture both how and why to worship, including the right use of music.
  6. What's best involves a cultural choice. What's best in London may not be best in Lima. What's best in one neighborhood of a city may not be best in another.
  7. Music for children can and should teach truth. (The children will remember some of those songs decades later.)
  8. The best hymns are worth learning. Someone has called them the distilled prayers of the saints.
  9. On average, old songs are better than new songs, because most of the bad old songs have been forgotten.
  10. The aim of the church singer or instrumentalist must be for people to think of the Lord, not the musician.
  11. In a church with some cultural diversity, if one group likes every song, the music may not be diverse enough.
  12. Music and words have moods. Upbeat, reflective and sad music can all be appropriate in worship.
  13. If all of a church's music is high-energy and celebratory, the church may end up shallow.
  14. If a church doesn't know how to celebrate with music, the church is probably sick.
  15. Songs about all we'll do for the Lord aren't as helpful as songs about all he has done, is doing and will do. Songs that focus primarily on our feelings about God aren't as nourishing as songs that focus on God's feelings and actions.
  16. Music for close of worship should usually aim to send the obedient believers out with joy, peace, courage, or some combination of those.
  17. Church musicians should aim for excellence.
  18. Technical excellence in music is no substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit.
  19. Church musicians need training in humility. The aim is humility in thought, in word, in actions, in appearance.
  20. Church leaders should discourage applause for musicians. Praise belongs to God, not to men--and not to children. It's fine to applaud the Lord, but applauding worship musicians can give them and the congregation the idea that the music is a performance for people instead of a part of the worship of God.
  21. Congregational singing sounds much better in a room with lots of hard surfaces, especially if it's a small congregation. (Such a room may be more difficult to preach in.)
  22. Words and music should match in mood.
  23. Louder isn't always better. Amplifiers are frequently over-used.
  24. If a music pastor is determined that he'll not permit music from one culture, he's not really the pastor of the church members who are of that culture. He should not be surprised nor angry when those people leave for another church where they are shepherded. 
  25. Cultures have much to learn from each other's music.
  26. Organs, guitars, bongo drums, one musical instrument is inherently best for accompanying church music.
  27. A musician who's technically excellent, but who is ungodly in attitudes or lifestyle, should not be permitted to continue as a church musician.
  28. Repeating a chorus over and over may lead to feelings of godliness, but it's not likely to lead to real godliness.It leads to turning off analytical thinking.
  29. Songs are a powerful way to teach theology.
  30. A song by a soloist or by a choir can often become more meaningful if the congregation is invited to sing the ending.
  31. It's often hard for a congregation to worship with a song the first or second time they hear it.
  32. If a music leader sees that almost nobody is singing, it usually means it's either the wrong song or is still too new.
  33. There's a place for new songs.
  34. Young people gain stability by learning the best old songs. 
  35. Old people gain flexibility by learning the best new songs.
  36. Neither old styles nor new styles are inherently better.
  37. Musicians should dress modestly and humbly. Neither sequins nor lots of exposed flesh are usually conducive to worship.
  38. It's good to use music by members of the congregation.
  39. Christians should be encouraged to sing all week.
  40. An excellent tune is no excuse for bad theology.
  41. Singing the scripture is a great way to memorize the scripture.
  42. Instruments in worship are optional.
  43. Congregations should be taught to worship with the head and the heart and the body. (The Psalms give examples of all of those.)
  44. We should thank God for those who are gifted in music for worship.
  45. Even if everyone around you loves the song, it's not spiritually healthy to sing words you don't believe are true. 
  46. Changes in church music should flow from love for the Lord and love for his church, not from a desire to be sophisticated or contemporary or popular or traditional.
  47. We must measure our worship music by the Bible, not by our culture.
  48. If we are intentionally trying to sound just like the non-Christian world around us, we don't understand the treasure we have in Christ.
  49. If we're proud of how utterly different our music style is from the non-Christian world around us, we may not understand our Lord's love for the people of that culture.
  50. There's no place for celebrity culture in worship music.
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Donald Fishgrab said...

Thanks Jim for some valuable guidelines. A lot of churches and musicians need to consider them.

Jim Swindle said...

Thanks, Donald.

Myra said...

So much thought went into this. Thank you.

Jim Swindle said...

Thanks, Myra.

Rik no Orkut said...

Faria sentido se eu entendesse!